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US Canceling Plan for New FBI Headquarters

  • VOA News

FILE - A member of the news media walks in front of the FBI headquarters building early in the morning in Washington.

The U.S. government agency that manages federal government buildings is set to announce Tuesday it is scrapping the contentious, decade-long push to build a new headquarters for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The move comes three years after the General Services Administration decided on three potential locations in the Washington suburbs for a new secure campus that could house the FBI's 11,000 headquarters employees.

Currently only about half of those workers operate out of the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. The rest are spread out at a number of other locations, increasing the amount of money it costs to run the bureau while also making it more difficult for it to meet its objectives efficiently.

The building's location in downtown Washington also raises security concerns. FBI police patrol outside and heavy concrete planters ring the site, but residents and tourists can walk past the building's doors at all hours of the day.

One stated goal of the new facility was to upgrade the security level to that of facilities such as the Pentagon and the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency, with a secure perimeter separating the public from the actual building.

A new FBI headquarters would also vastly upgrade working conditions from the Hoover Building, which opened in 1974 and now has netting around some of its upper sections to prevent pieces of concrete from falling on the sidewalk below.

But at nearly $2 billion, the project faced opposition from Congress, which has not come close to appropriating enough to fulfill the plan that also involved handing over the Hoover Building site to whichever developer constructed the new campus in the suburbs.

With the GSA already having received bids from developers as it weighed which of the three potential sites it would ultimately choose, there have also been concerns raised about ties between President Donald Trump's family and companies involved in the bidding.

One of the reported finalists in the process was developer Vornado, a company headed by Stephen Roth who had advised Trump and partnered with him and son-in-law Jared Kushner in other real estate deals.

Members of Congress from Virginia and Maryland, the two states where the potential headquarters sites are located, criticized the government's decision ahead of the formal announcement.

"Reports that the federal government is pulling the plug on a new FBI headquarters reveals insurmountable Trump conflicts with GSA, FBI, and Vornado," Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia, said on Twitter. "This is devastating news. Conflicts have consequences."

"The Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are putting the safety and security of our country at risk," said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, a Democrat from Maryland.

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